The Legacy of Parmenides: Eleatic Monism and Later Presocratic Thought

The Legacy of Parmenides: Eleatic Monism and Later Presocratic Thought

The Legacy of Parmenides: Eleatic Monism and Later Presocratic Thought

The Legacy of Parmenides: Eleatic Monism and Later Presocratic Thought


Parmenides of Elea was the most important and influential philosopher before Plato. Patricia Curd here reinterprets Parmenides' views and offers a new account of his relation to his predecessors and successors. In the traditional interpretation, Parmenides argues that generation, destruction, and change are unreal and that only one thing exists. He therefore rejected as impossible the scientific inquiry practised by the earlier Presocratic philosophers. But the philosophers who came after Parmenides attempted to explain natural change and they assumed the reality of a plurality of basic entities. Thus, on the traditional interpretation, the later Presocratics either ignored or contradicted his arguments. In this book, Patricia Curd argues that Parmenides sought to reform rather than to reject scientific inquiry and offers a more coherent account of his influence on the philosophers who came after him. The Legacy of Parmenides provides a detailed examination of Parmenides' arguments, considering his connection to earlier Greek thought and how his account of what-is could serve as model for later philosophers. It then considers the theories of those who came after him, including the Pluralists (Anaxagoras and Empedocles), the Atomists (Leucippus and Democritus), the later Eleatics (Zeno and Melissus), and the later Presocratics (Philolaus of Croton and Diogenes of Apollonia). The book closes with a discussion of the importance of Parmenides' views for the development of Plato's Theory of Forms. This edition includes a new Introduction by the author in which she clarifies her position on the following points: Monism, Internal and External Negations, Locomotion and the Specification of How What-is Is, and Doxa. Also added is a Supplementary Bibliography.


This book began as a series of papers on Presocratic issues written in 1990–91 while I was a Junior Fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies. After returning from the center, I continued to think and to write about the Presocratics, and it became clear to me that I was actually writing a book. in completing it, I have received support and encouragement from a number of people and institutions.

The Center for Hellenic Studies provided a wonderful place to work that first year, and it has welcomed me back on a number of research visits. I am very grateful to the director during my time there, Zeph Stewart, and to the present directors, Kurt Raaflaub and Deborah Boedeker, and to the center’s librarian, Ellen Roth.

My work has been supported by a Fellowship for University Teachers from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and by the Center for Humanistic Studies of the School of Liberal Arts at Purdue University; I am thankful for the support of these institutions. in addition, several Faculty Development Grants from the Purdue University School of Liberal Arts subsidized research trips and computer equipment, and I am pleased to acknowledge this valuable assistance. the deans of the School of Liberal Arts, David Caputo and Thomas Adler, were active in their support, as were philosophy department heads William Rowe and Rod Bertolet. the inter-library loan department of the Purdue libraries was indispensable.

An early version of Chapter iv was read at the Princeton Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy in 1992, and I am grateful to the commentator, Christopher Kirwan, for his remarks. Some of the material in Chapters I, ii, iv, and V was presented at meetings of the American Philosophical Association and the Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy. My thanks to participants at all these meetings for their comments and suggestions.

I am indebted to Ann Wald, Editor in Chief of Princeton University Press, to her assistant Helen Hsu, and to Marta Steele, who copyedited the book; it has been a joy to work with them. I am grateful for the comments and suggestions of two anonymous readers for the Press.

A number of people deserve special mention. For allowing me to use and to refer to unpublished material, thanks are due to David Furley, Daniel Graham, André Laks, and Kirk Sanders. Carl Huffman, John Kirby, and Alexander Nehamas read and commented on parts of the manuscript and answered many questions. Alexander P. D. Mourelatos was generous with help and advice. James Lesher read and commented on the entire book and answered numerous emails; he deserves particular thanks for his help and . . .

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